Wildfires in California have forced more than 100,000 evacuations and seriously injured two firefighters as powerful winds across the state prompted a power outage to hundreds of thousands of residents.
Some 60,000 people fled their homes near Los Angeles on Monday as the wildfire raged across more than 3,000 hectares blocking key roads in Orange County.
The so-called Silverado Fire broke out early in the morning in the foothills of Irvine, 60 kilometres southeast of Los Angeles, and quickly spread unchecked, fueled by dry conditions and erratic winds that prevented firefighting aircraft from flying.
“It’s nuts – even inside the car, my eyes, my nose and my throat stung,” said Frederic Tournadre, a French man whose company in Irvine sent all its employees home.
The inferno nearly quadrupled in size by afternoon, jumping a highway and covering the area with a huge plume of smoke and ash.
The latest threats came amid what meteorologists called the strongest onslaught of extreme winds documented yet in a California wildfire season ranked as the worst on record in terms of acreage burned.
Fires have scorched more than 16,500sq km an area equivalent to the landmass of the state of Hawaii.
Since the start of the year, with thousands of homes destroyed and 31 lives lost.